Safe Driving Tips for Winter

The wintery weather has officially arrived. Whether we’re traveling in a heavy, sleeting rain, snow or slippery ice, driving in these conditions can be treacherous—and even deadly.

According to the US DOT, more than 20,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021 alone (January – June), which is an 18.4% increase since 2020. It is the largest number of auto accident fatalities reported since 2006. 

Beyond these tragic fatalities, around three million people in the U.S. are injured annually in an auto accident. Two million of them experience permanent, life-altering injuries.

While you can’t control other cars and their drivers, there are some precautions you can take and tips you should follow to ensure you stay safe out on the roads this winter – and all year.

Slow Down

If you are unable to avoid driving in extreme weather conditions, be sure you go slow. The NHTSA reports that in the past twenty years, “speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. In 2019, speeding was a contributing factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities.”

A car driving at a slow rate of speed is much easier to control than a car driving at a high rate of speed – especially on snow-covered, icy roads. In addition to slowing down, it’s also important to be aware of how close you are to the car in front of you. Keep more distance between you in case you need to stop quickly. Leave your house earlier, so you have more time to get where you need to go. 

Plan Your Route

In addition to leaving earlier, be sure to also check the weather and current road conditions. Plan your trip accordingly. If you’re embarking on a long car trip, be sure to get familiar with the directions beforehand. Let friends/family know when you anticipate arriving.

Check The Tires

Cold temperatures affect tire pressure, causing it to drop. In preparation for driving this winter, be sure to fill your car’s tires with the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. This can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or the label on the driver’s side door frame. 

It’s a good idea to inspect your tires monthly – and before long road trips. Be sure to check each tire’s age, tire pressure and any damage, including cracks, bumps, punctures, etc. If you find any damage or cause for concern, head to your nearest tire service. 

Winter Car Kit

In addition to a full tank of gas and antifreeze, consider preparing a “winter car kit” to keep in your trunk in case you do have an emergency while driving in the snow. Items that could be helpful include:

  • Jumper cables 
  • Blankets and hand warmers
  • Extra mittens, socks and hats
  • Bottled water
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Flashlight and batteries 
  • First-aid kit
  • Snow shovel
  • Road flares or reflective warning triangles

Avoid Distracted Driving

It’s never a good idea to drive while distracted—that includes texting, eating, talking on your phone and driving impaired. Coupled with wintery weather, distracted driving can be a recipe for disaster. Be sure to always wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers are buckled as well.

Emergency Tips

  • Stay focused. Pay attention to your own body and well-being, your passengers, your car, and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t overexert yourself. 
  • Stay in your car. If your vehicle does get stuck in the snow, you should stay in it. Not only does it provide shelter from the weather, it makes it easier for first responders to locate you. If possible, tie a bright piece of fabric to your car’s antenna and keep your interior lights on. 
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear. A blocked exhaust pipe can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Stay calm, stay warm. Use blankets, jackets or anything you have available to keep your body warm inside your vehicle. 

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